Posts Tagged ‘bishop of southwark’

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti visits the UK

Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities visits UK

Written by Wilson Chowdhry
In Alex’s absence, I attended the Christian Muslim Forum conference held at St George the Martyr Church , Bermondsey London yesterday afternoon.  The event was well organised and had a small but important audience including members of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Bishop of Southwark, Romail Gulzar and Pukaar News, John Bosco, Reverend Rana Youab Khan and many esteemed others, including senior figures from the UK Muslim community.
The meeting was a chance for those concerned about the persecution of minority faiths and the effects of the recent inundation – to get some feedback from the Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and to pose questions to him.
Shahbaz Bhatti talked much about the introduction of a people engagement scheme that involves frequent meetings with leaders and lay people from all faiths in Pakistan.  He described how he believed that this would herald a new age of dialogue and cultural transformation in Pakistan – if given time to take effect.
He also talked of amendments to be made to the Blasphemy Law of Pakistan that will eventually see the introduction of penalties to those who are found abusing the act for personal benefit.  This would involve penalties to groups or agencies that stirred up hatred against communities – such as rogue or fanatical religious leaders and their establishments.

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti alongside Bishop Dr Richard Cheetham and other Pakistani Christian Brethren
Many questioned the veracity of the worth of such schemes as many had heard the same previously.  Moreover, I specifically asked the Federal Minister, to explain how he would ensure that the authorities involved in the process of evaluating and investigating any blasphemy allegations would be free from corruption.  I suggested that the police and other agencies are prone to corruption due to low levels of pay
incommensurate with better pay levels for Taliban insurgents!  Moreover, if better pay levels were to be administered the government of Pakistan would have to introduce a fairer tax system and ensure that monies due were collected.

Mr Wilson Chowdhry with Mr Julian Bond (Director of The Christian Muslim Forum)

I also queried the need for a Blasphemy Law considering that a lead Muslim had stated that the law itself is un-islamic (it seemed a ubiquitous theme that all faiths attending the meeting were pro-abrogation of the Blasphemy Law), however, if the government was reticent to remove the Law should it not provide universal protection to all faiths and prophets.  In such format with the threat of counter-litigation, we should surely see a sharp reduction in the propensity for abuse.

Finally, I asked why it was necessary to highlight an individual’s faith on their passports and identity documents.  This act alone highlights the extent of prejudice in Pakistan and would be an easy matter to resolve without any significant cost or difficulty.  People would simply have the choice to purchase new passports without the discriminatory text – if holding an old standard type.